I just fielded a call from Ipsos-Reid, a large and reputable polling firm. The subject was Canada’s "diplomatic and development" role in Afghanistan. The sponsor of the survey was the Federal Government. It began by asking what aspects of the media’s coverage I was aware of. Then it went on to ask about how I felt about the role, conveniently ignoring anything to do with the military’s current combat operations. Then it asked if I agreed or disagreed with various aspects of our non-military activities. After going through all of these items, it asked again how I felt about the overall role (still restricted to diplomacy and development, of course).
The repetition of the question is fascinating. You expect that really what’s being measured here is this question: "If we keep telling Canadians about all the good things, will they change their opinion to support the mission, conveniently ignoring the occasional body bag (which we’ll hide by blocking the media from showing them)?"
But that’s not the reason for this entry…
The reason is the next question, which was basically one of faith. To paraphrase, it was along the lines of "how often do you attend church or [various other places of worship]". Last time I checked — which appears before we managed to elect a semi-closeted fundamentalist for a Prime Minister* — I was living in a Secular state where questions like this weren’t relevant.
When I refused to answer the question a second time, the survey was terminated. There’s another interesting facet of this process… clearly anyone inclined to maintain separation between faith and state isn’t worthy of having an opinion. There’s no "declined to say" option available.
So when these survey results come out (make that if they come out; this smells of "internal use only"), they should be qualified as "among respondents willing to disclose their religious beliefs…". That’s pathetic and embarrassing.
* Stephen Harper once wrote an op-ed piece for the Globe and Mail that read, as I understood it, as "I’m not a fundamentalist, I just believe in policies that are consistent with my religious beliefs". I don’t know what definition he’s using for "fundamentalist", but it sure seems that he needs a secular dictionary.